Five minutes with… Jonathan Bruce, mechanical design engineer
After graduating in 2011, Jonathan, from Kent, returned to his placement employer, the Defence Scientific and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), a trading fund of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). He enjoyed the real world projects all Harper Adams engineering students carry out.
Did your course make you more employable?
Yes. I was able to turn up at interview and talk about not only the wide range of theoretical engineering experience I’d been able to gain but also to be able to draw upon experience seeing projects right through from concept to workshop build. Plus the wide experience I’d been able to gain in group project work and the management of junior students, working to tight deadlines with complex technical problems, and becoming involved in collaborative work, linked with industry. Holding a degree in a relevant area (Engineering/Mathematics/Science) also meant I was able to start on Dstl’s two year graduate training programme.
What did you do on placement?
I was an engineer within the Land Battlespace Department, where I was involved in a variety of different projects, ranging from working on defence standards, developing future concepts to exploit uptake of technology and vehicle assessments. It was a great mix of both desk-based and in-field tasks.
Were you able to use what you’d already learned?
It was great to be able to use some of the skills I’d picked up in my first couple of years at Harper Adams and to immediately become involved in real world, challenging problems. It was great to get hands on with military kit and the experience of working with a combination of top class scientists/engineers and military personnel.
Sounds great for your CV!
During my placement I’d been able to get involved in some high profile projects, managing small aspects of these, working closely with other teams/departments and producing detailed concepts and technical outputs to tight timescales and with budgetary constraints. All of these have been great talking points in interviews since!
You’re now a mechanical design engineer?
Yes, I’m responsible for the completion of design projects. This encompasses the whole design process, from working with the customer to develop requirements, generating initial concepts, constructing prototypes and finally ensuring the product is fit for purpose. The process sees me collaborate with a number of different departments/functions encompassing areas of Computer Aided Design, electronics and manufacture. I like the ‘make a difference’ aspect of the role, directly supporting the customer, and the short turnaround of projects (a few weeks at a time), which means plenty of variety in the work. There’s also a range of training and development opportunities available.
How did your experience at Harper Adams help?
They provided me with a great background, not only in the theoretical aspect of engineering but also of actually carrying out projects for myself and understanding the processes and pitfalls, which have since been very applicable to my career.
Any careers advice for other students?
Make the most of the links that are available through the university and keep your eyes peeled online for the range of graduate internship/placement opportunities.
Online exclusive – more from our interview with Jonathan
Why did you choose to study at Harper Adams?
The course was exactly what I’d been looking for, offering a chance to gain universally recognised engineering expertise, as well as benefiting from a range of on-site engineering facilities (including an on-site test track and soil hall) which meant plenty of opportunity to get my hands dirty!
"Harper Adams was also the only university that was able to offer me 'direct entry'. This meant despite not doing A-level maths (the whole 'I want to be an engineer' brainwave came to me quite late on!) I was still able to commence straight away with my course, and didn't have to spend a foundation year in 'maths for dummies'. Instead they ran additional maths support classes (and I needed a few of them!) to get me up to speed with the others."
Aside from the course, the atmosphere on campus seemed a lot more welcoming and ‘farmer friendly’ than some of the larger scale universities I’d visited, and the open day cakes clinched the deal!
What were the best things about your course?
The fantastic student to lecturer ratio (a big advantage over mates at Uni’s with 300+ students a class), the wide range of cutting edge content covered, the chance to get involved in a range of team activities. The others on it!
Tell us a little about any undergraduate projects you worked on.
My final year dissertation was completed for (and sponsored by) a colleague I worked with on my placement year at the Defence Scientific & Technical Laboratory (Dstl). My dissertation, whilst originally aimed at the generation of a specific technical capability, became focussed upon the design and generation of a test method to assess a range of capabilities reliably and repeatedly. The constructed ‘rig’ achieved its purpose and the output report was returned to Dstl, contributing to the advancement of knowledge in that area. The project was a great opportunity to get stuck into a real world problem and gave me the freedom to put into practice the skills and knowledge I’d already developed on the course.
What do you think of the teaching you received?
It was unique and undoubtedly the reason I was able to gain my degree! The staff are not only passionate about their subject but also the success and support of the students. I believe it is this network of support which is the university’s key advantage over the ‘learning en masse’ style of the larger universities.
And the facilities?
They’re great, providing all you need (including a farm!) on one site.
Why would you recommend studying at Harper Adams?
A fantastic ‘family’ atmosphere, some great people, and if they can get me through a degree, there’s hope for anyone!